I am playing catch up writing up my review posts about the Tour. Work and Southern Hemisphere Tour induced insomnia is working against me. Stage 17 was always going to post a challenge of a different kind of time-trial. The Tour planners decided that they would throw a bit of torture at the riders with a short 32km stage that had two categorie 2 climbs in it, combined with a wickedly fast downhill run into the finish. The regular TT riders like Tony Martin (drinker of much cement and who did his best to impersonate a riding mummy early in the race) would not be the favourites, but it would be a route for the climbers.

Tejay van Garderen (from BMC) has tried to erase the team’s donuts at this year’s Tour (that’s right, they have earned nothing but zeroes, nada, nothing, zip – donuts). And early in the piece he set a cracking pace that would hold up until the last 10 (and highest place) riders would come in at the end of the stage. And then the weather came in…

I can’t believe that of all the stages when the weather decided to play up it chose this day. The little micro-tempest that rolled through turned a gruelling time-trial stage into a spot of ice skating for the unlucky riders. Understandably a lot of those caught in this greasy road mess backed it off. But thank God it cleared up and dried out for the big guns in the GC to come out and play.

But here is when I have to make a major call out to a rider showing much cement to just start the day. Jean-Christophe Peraud, the highest placed French rider at the start of the day, fell while reconnoiter the route and cracked his collarbone. He cracked his collarbone! And yet he still took to the bike. He was a figure of riding pain every time he leaned right to take a turn. And unfortunately for him he went down again during the stage and on the same side. This would force Peraud to retire from the Tour – but to this rider goes much respect!

tdf_2013-stage_17-legend

The GC Shoots it Out

Realistically everyone had the Froome-dog, and currently the holder of the Maillot Jaune, shoed in as the favourite. Each of his challengers, bar 2nd place Mollema (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) ended up nudging Tejay van Garderen from his blistering time. Finally it was El Pistolero (the deli merchant Contador) who would take the gun position waiting to see what the Froome-dog would do. And true to form the Froome-dog belted everybody. I am struggling to see how anyone can beat the Empire and Froome-dog.

tdf_2013-stage_17-winner

So bring on stage 18 and the double climb of Alpe-d’Huez, which is what everyone is waiting for. This is the best Tour that I can ever remember watching.

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-17/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/17/tdf-stage-17-froome-dispatches-spanish-armada/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50228/froome-builds-lead-as-alpe-d-huez-looms

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. I am only going to reward three riders today:

1. Jean-Christophe Peraud – He represented his team, and his country. Tough, tough, tough.

2. Christopher Froome – buried himself to set the final last sector time to take the stage. He may ride for the Empire, but he has done the Maillot Jaune due justice.

3. Tejay van Garderen – could have settled on his crap position in the GC, but went out to try and smash it.

The Turbo Training Challenge

My turbo training challenge ride has come off the skids, I need the new set of uncracked wheels to come in. They should have arrived in Australia and hopefully get delivered soon.